Jul 06, 2011

Iraqi Turkmen: Doctors Targeted As Abductions Increase

The Iraqi Turkmen Front has warned authorities that a continued failure to prevent the continued targeting of skilled labor in abductions will undermine future development as the US withdrawal looms overhead.

Below is an article published by Rudaw:

Kirkuk doctors are concerned about the recent kidnapping of several doctors and their family members, underlining security concerns ahead of the US troop withdrawal at the end of this year.

The news of the recent kidnapping of five people in the city, including two doctors, has shocked the residents of this multi-ethnic city. Doctors went on strike to protest the deterioration of security and calling authorities to guarantee their safety.

On June 19 [2011], gunmen kidnapped Adwal Ali Mahmud, a well-known Turkman doctor. A few days later, gunmen kidnapped Safi Harzan, a Kurdish doctor. There [remains] no news about their whereabouts.

On June 30 [2011], a 9-year-old son of a doctor was released on US$50,000 ransom after he had been kidnapped by gunmen four days earlier.

Another doctor was able to escape a kidnapping attempt. Furthermore, the house of retired doctor Sami Izzeden al-Daudey came under fire on Saturday by unknown men.

Security officials from throughout the province have held a meeting to address the kidnappings. The Kirkuk Governor’s media office reported that Governor Najmaldin Karim, a doctor, met with the heads of security agencies, coalition forces, the Iraqi army and the director general of the health departments in Kirkuk to discuss the situation.

On Thursday [30 June 2011], the Iraqi Parliament Health Commission expressed concern about the kidnappings. 

“The commission is following with concern the breaches of security in Kirkuk, which resulted in the kidnapping of doctors and their children,” the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat wrote, quoting a Health Commission statement.

The diverse city of Kirkuk, located 280 kilometers north of Baghdad and claimed by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, is the major disputed area between the Iraqi and the Kurdistan Regional Government. It has witnessed continued violence by armed groups targeting security forces and civilians.

Major-General Jamal Taher Bakir, Kirkuk’s chief of police, said in a press conference on Friday [1 July 2011] that police are implementing a security plan to protect doctors and boost the number of officers on the streets. 

Following Bakir’s press conference, doctors ended their strike on Saturday [2 July 2011]. 

Bakir added that the kidnappers do not only target doctors, but also the children of rich families.

Ahmed Mahmoud Ali, a Kirkuk resident, agreed.

“Sadly the rich and respected families in Kirkuk do not feel safe anymore because of threats and kidnapping threats and try to leave the country,” he said.

Captain Yadgar Shukir Abdullah, head of the Kirkuk Police’s Joint Operations Center, said they believe kidnappers are targeting doctors because of the perception that doctors are wealthy. 

“Most of the terrorists got money from Arab countries from outside of Iraq, but we blocked this. Now terrorist groups are kidnapping (rich) people.”

The Iraqi Turkmen Front in Kirkuk, suggested in a statement the abduction of doctors was aimed at draining Iraq of its skilled professionals. The front demanded the security forces protect citizens. 

Another political group in Kirkuk, the Arab Stream Project, led by Achmed Hameed al-Obeidi, called on the federal and local governments to investigate the kidnappings. 

But the performance of police forces has drawn criticism from politicians about the ability of the forces to take control following the US troop withdrawal at the end of the year. 

Hassan Torhan, Kirkuk Provincial Council Chairman, said, “In my opinion the security forces are not ready to take over security in Kirkuk.” 

He said US troops shouldn’t leave Kirkuk until the political issues are addressed. 

“Otherwise we will face many dangerous situations in Kirkuk,” he said.


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